‘It boils down to seeing a need, getting a group of very skilled women together and going for it,’ is the way one member describes Mokihana Club.

The ladies of Mokihana Club extend the spirit of the holidays throughout the year. The group is known for its generous efforts in making the island a better place through actions such as raising money to provide scholarships for nursing and music students.

“It boils down to seeing a need, getting a group of very skilled women together and going for it,” says Suzanne Ellis, a member and past president of the club.

And the team of more than 100 goes for it, more often than not.

“We show our appreciation for living here by doing what we can to help better whatever we can,” says past president and current member Carolyn Knepper.

Mokihana Club is Hawaii’s longest-running women’s service club. It began in 1903, when the first Lihue Public Hall was built. The development had acquired a debt of $1,400, so a group of women got together to raise money to help pay it off. In doing so, they found they enjoyed each other’s company and had a natural ability to make a significant difference in the community, and two years later they decided to form an official club.

“We’ve been going ever since,” says Corinne King, current club president.

One of the club’s primary goals is to work with Kauai Community College and its nursing program. The women look for students who have applied for financial aid and, based on their grade-point average and need, provide them monetary relief. Since the program’s inception in 2003, the club has awarded approximately $112,000 in scholarships.

The club’s original founders were public-health advocates and were instrumental in bringing dental care to island schoolchildren and general health care to the growing population.

“We chose to follow that need on the island,” explains Ellis.

They also are following in the footsteps of the club’s founders by providing scholarships to music students. In the early 1900s, Mokihana Club helped bring Honolulu Symphony to the island so that the public could appreciate classical music. Today, the club encourages keiki to build a musical background.

“Schools are so poorly funded now, in their music programs especially, that we wanted to encourage them to continue pursuing music,” notes King.

Each year, the club hosts a music competition, where monetary awards are given for the best performances by college-bound seniors who plan to study music or take private lessons in college.

“Music is something they can use their whole life for enjoyment. It’s a big part of the culture on the island, and so it’s important to the students and their families,” says Knepper.

Mokihana Club hosts about four major events a year, including a golf scramble, that generate funds for their various programs. In addition to providing scholarships, the club has been and continues to be involved in activities such as island beautification and projects like installing a fish-identification sign at Lydgate Beach Park. These kinds of accomplishments have been ongoing since the club’s inception. In fact, the first members were so successful in their endeavors that they branched out to form other organizations, including Kauai Historical Society and The Outdoor Circle.

“They planted the seeds,” says Ellis. And those seeds continue to grow into thriving plants, as members such as Sarah Rogers, who serves as board secretary and is a past president as well, are still extremely dedicated. After retiring in 2002, she was looking for something that would give her a sense of accomplishment: “Where I could do well in the community,” she explains.

Though members traditionally must be invited to join, she was bold enough to ask for membership.

“I got involved right away,” she says.

Rogers continues to be an enthusiastic member of the club and makes sure to attend the regular meetings, which typically feature guest speakers such as authors or representatives from nonprofits.

Winnie Lu, another past president, has found value in the club for a number of years as well, and believes one of the many benefits is the camaraderie.

“You meet a lot of friends,” says Lu, who joined in 1996. “If you’re newer to the island, you’ll gain a lot of friends right away, and if you’ve been around for awhile, it’s still very nice to network with members of the club.”

“I have met women from all over the world with all types of backgrounds,” agrees King. “They’re very interesting, and that’s part of why I continue.”

The other part is her desire to make a difference.

“We live here, and I take it as a very deep responsibility I have to care for my community,” King adds.

Call 822-3473 for information on upcoming meeting dates and other details.

cocomidweek@gmail.com

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